TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Next school year is not looking good for high school students looking to find a middle-skilled job right after graduation.
The state legislature reduced by 50 percent funding for Pima County Joint Technical Education District's career and technical education programs.
That could affect 16,000 students in southern Arizona who rely on the program to enter careers or post-secondary education. Drastic changes could come to classes like auto technology and medical assistant training taught at local high schools. Right now, specifics about which programs will be cut are not available.
"Districts are hoping for the cuts to be restored for the 2016-2017 school year before making any major changes," said Greg D'Anna, spokesperson for Pima County JTED. "We won't know for sure until January."
D'Anna urges parents and students to pay attention to the budget crisis right now since time is running out to change legislators' minds.
"When the legislature enters session in January, they could cancel the cuts," D'Anna said. "People at home need to let the governor and their lawmakers know that these programs are important to students and the economy."
According to Arizona Department of Education reports, JTED students are more likely to complete high school. Leaders credit the fact students can connect skills they learn in the classroom to getting a good-paying job after graduation.
The problem with the reduction in funding right now is that students may not be able to complete their programs.
"Many programs that offer certifications and direct pathways to employment will be forced to close," D'Anna said.
It will not happen overnight, but it could impact Bob Schlanger's auto repair shop business. He owns British Car Services in midtown and employs JTED students. It is one of hundreds of local businesses in southern Arizona that rely on hiring students who make it through JTED.
"If the funding is not restored quickly, it could reduce the flow of young technicians into my business," Schlanger said. "It's crucial to the future as I have an aging workforce that is nearing retirement."
"It has always been difficult to find technicians and the best way I've been able to do it is hire young people that have the best qualifications possible and train them from there for my specific needs," he said. "JTED programs provide the fundamental skills and basic industry certifications that I need for my business."
Schlanger said the impact of these cuts could trickle down to the consumer.
"Basic supply and demand dictates that if there are fewer technicians, prices could increase and wait times could be longer," he said.
To learn more about JTED, click here.
To contact the state lawmakers, click here.